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Morning tip: Wizards' offense plays to Sessions' strengths

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Morning tip: Wizards' offense plays to Sessions' strengths

This is the same Ramon Sessions who had to play his way into the NBA as a second-round draft pick, who averaged double figures for a season five times and who now is the best backup John Wall has had in his sixth year.

In fourth quarter, Sessions is sharing the backcourt with Wall and the results are much like what happened in Wednesday's 100-91 victory vs. the Memphis Grizzlies. 

Mike Conley's layup at 6:13 had trimmed the deficit to 90-83, but a three-point shot from Garrett Temple and a runner by Sessions with the shot clock winding down secured the Wizards their third win in a row.

"When he throws it to me, that split second I'm trying to attack while they're still paying attention to him," said Sessions, who had 16 points, four rebounds and three assists. "It's tough. A guy like John you always got to pay attention to. You swing it to me and I'm downhill. It's one of those things you got to pick and choose your battles."

The Wizards (13-14) are winning them. With the new offense, Sessions will take charge of running side pick-and-rolls, too.

"If I get tired, I still get to be out there with the team. He's able to make plays off the pick-and-roll and make shots," Wall said. "He changes the pace also and can push it. I can pass the ball on the outlet and catch a little break on the weak side resting."

Sessions is averaging 12.6 points per game during the win streak. He has scored in double figures in six of the last seven games. What the Wizards are doing now is more conducive to his skill-set.

"My game has stayed the same. It's a different system, obviously," said Sessions, who was acquired in a trade with the Sacramento Kings last season when he was slowed by a lower back strain. "In Sacramento I wasn't as healthy as I needed to be early on in the season. For most part it's just a different system where for my game it's perfect, push the tempo, get to the basket, attack. In Sacramento it was more we're trying to post the big fella (DeMarcus Cousins)." 

With Bradley Beal (leg) and Otto Porter (thigh) out and Gary Neal (lower back) on and off because of the nature of his injury, Sessions has to pick up more of the scoring slack.

"It's more freedom in the offense. I'm trying to attack the paint, draw fouls," said Sessions, who had a team-high six foul shots vs. Memphis. "Playing these kind of lineups, when we do get healthy if we got to go this route we know what it takes and we know how to get it done."

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John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

The Wizards in recent years have made a habit of trying to speak things into existence and then not having them actually come into existence. They have talked the talk and then sometimes haven't walked the walk.

A few instances come to mind, including Bradley Beal saying of the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers that "they didn't want to see us" in the playoffs. Beal also said in November that the Washington was the best team in the East, just hours before James scored 57 points in the Wizards' building.

John Wall has made similar proclamations in the past, usually about himself, including how he is the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. Now, these statements were all relatively normal for professional athletes who pride themselves in always feeling like they are the best player on the floor or the field. It's part of the mindset that makes them who they are.

But when those statements are made and then not backed up, they can be tough to defend, and especially for a Wizards team which last season seemed to overlook the lesser teams and suffered a down year because of it.

Wall insists all that is about to change. In his 1-on-1 interview with Chris Miller on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, Wall said the message this year will be much different, much more muted than it has been in the past.

"We want to go out with a different mindset and a different focus. We're not trying to go in and think we're a team that has already established something and got respect from people. We have to earn that respect and that means going out and competing every night against the good teams or the bad teams," he said.

That doesn't mean Wall isn't confident. His belief in himself hasn't wavered and, in fact, he may believe in his team more now than ever. That's because he is happy with the offseason the front office has produced.

They signed Dwight Howard and Jeff Green in free agency, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. in the first round. All should help the Wizards improve between Howard representing an upgrade at starting center and the others providing much-needed depth.

When Wall was asked by Chris if this is the most complete team he has played with in Washington, Wall left no doubts.

"Yeah, for sure. I definitely think so," he said. "I think it gives us the opportunity where we don't have to play as many minutes. That's the key. At the end of the year, you kind of fall short because you're fatigued. Nobody uses that as an excuse. You play and try to get into the best shape possible. But if you're playing 24 minutes, the whole half, and then 24 minutes and the whole half, you kind of get tired at some point. I think those guys can take a little of the burden and pressure off of us at times."

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

When asked at his introductory press conference for how he will fit on the Wizards' roster from a basketball perspective, guard Austin Rivers didn't first cite his three-point shooting, his ability to affect games scoring off the bench or his speed to run the floor with John Wall and Bradley Beal. The first thing he point to was his defense.

That may have surprised some people out there as Rivers has long been known for his scoring ability and not so much his skills on the other end. It's not that he can't play defense, it's just that most of the highlights he's produced over the years have been due to his high-flying finishes at the rim and wicked pull-up jumper from three-point range.

Defense, though, is something Rivers takes pride in and he hopes to continue developing as a defender in Washington.

"With how much Brad and John have to do every night, for them to not have to always guard the best guard on the other team, that's something I can come in here and do. Try to bring that competitive spirit and be one of the defenders on the team," Rivers said.

Rivers' defensive ability has produced some controversy among Wizards fans and media members on social media. Some insist he does not bring value on that end of the floor, while some numbers suggest he does have some defensive potential.

Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game. He was tied for fifth on the Clippers in defensive win shares.

However, his 113 defensive rating was his worst since 2013-14. It was an outlier on the Clippers and not in the good way. He also ranked nowhere near the top of the league in deflections or contested three-point shots, two hustle stats that guys like Wall and Beal fair well in.

Rivers points to two attributes that he believes make him a strong perimeter defender. One is his versatility and the other you could call scrappiness.

"On defense [the Wizards] can switch one through three or one through four. I think that gives us a lot of dangerous options," he said.

As for his scrappiness, Rivers says it comes from the early days of his career.

"I had to figure out ways to be effective without [a jumpshot] and that's how I became a defender. I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I'm happy I did have those early career struggles because it made me find a side of me that I didn't do [early on]. Because I promise you I didn't play any defense at Duke," he said.

The last line drew laughter from those gathered at his introductory press conference. Rivers insists that he now takes that end of the floor very seriously. The Wizards certainly hope he can back up his words.

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